This is part 6 of the European Grand Prix mini history series – years 2004 – 2005.
Season 2004 saw some changes in the order. Williams begun their decline, McLaren suffered from reliability issues (especially in the early stages of the season). Their places were taken by BAR Honda and Renault. And Ferraris were running away with the championship from the very beginning. European GP was the race number 7 of the season. Michael Schumacher won the first 5 and was ready to get back to winning ways after crashing out of Monaco race. Schumacher claimed the pole position after running light in qualifying, quick Takuma Sato lined up next to him in P2. Jarno Trulli (Renault, the winner in Monaco) and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) occupied the second row. At the start Schumacher pulled away with the help of Kimi Raikkonen who jumped ahead of Sato (BAR Honda) and Trulli and held them back. Also at the start, Williams team mates Montoya and Ralf Schumacher touched their wheels and Ralf was out.
By the time Schumacher made his first pit stop on lap 8, he was already 17 seconds ahead. Kimi went for his pit stop on the same lap but once he rejoined the race his engine went and he was out. Then Sato’s charge begun. With a bit of empty track ahead he picked up the speed and in Sato-like fashion overtook Trulli to move up to 2nd place. Few corners later Trulli tried to get the position back. Sato had other ideas, closed the door and the two collided. They rejoined the race but dropped back to 4th and 5th.
Barrichello’s two stop strategy elevated him to 2nd, Button (BAR Honda) cruised behind the two Ferraris in third. Trulli and Alonso (Renault) took 4th and 5th.
Then came season 2005 and new title contender – Fernando Alonso and Renault. The moment of the 2005 European GP however goes to Kimi Raikkonen and his spectacular retirement on the last lap.
Renault and Alonso were the team to beat in 2005 season but the pole position at Nurburgring went to Nick Heidfeld (Williams) ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren). Alonso only managed P6. Gone was the 2004 dominance of Ferrari, the tyre change ban clearly not working in their favour. The tyre rules were to become a major talking point after this race …
At the start Raikkonen overtook Nick Heidfeld and pulled away. Not much changed until the first round of pit stops (for refueling only in 2005). When they were over the order was Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Alonso, Barrichello (Ferrari), Coulthard (Red Bull), Massa (Sauber), Michael Schumacher and Montoya (McLaren). During the second round of pitstops Alonso got ahead of Heidfeld and all looked set for Raikkonen’s win.
It was all going well for him but on lap 30 while lapping Villeneuve Raikkonen flatspotted his front tyre. The last few laps of the race are hard to forget. The TV kept showing shots of Raikkonen’s vibrating front tyre and one had to wonder how much was Kimi actually able to see from that shaking car. The team chose to keep him on the track hoping the tyre would last till the end. It did last but only until the last lap – then while approaching the turn 1 the vibration damaged suspension failed. Kimi’s spinning McLaren only just missed approaching Jenson Button (a lap down), luckyly, no one got hurt. Alonso took the lead and cruised to the checquered flag, winning his 4th race of the season. Heidfeld held on to his 2nd place, Barrichello took the last place on podium, one of the better results for Ferrari that season.